Jodie Whittaker on Becoming the First Female Doctor Who

Actress Jodie Whittaker

“To be asked to play the ultimate character, to get to play pretend in the truest form: This is why I wanted to be an actor in the first place.” – Jodie Whittaker

Peter Capaldi announced he  would be stepping down as the twelfth Doctor in Doctor Who at the end of 2017, when showrunnner Steven Moffat also departs the series. As soon as his leaving became public knowledge, so the speculation began regarding who might take over the role. As ever, many fans were rooting for a female Doctor to be brought in, and this time the growing voice for a gender switch seemed stronger than ever. Added to this were the hints dropped into the show during its final few episodes of season 10, such as when the Doctor was asked by the bitter Master if the future was all female, and he replied “We can only hope.”

Well now, the future is female indeed, with Jodie Whittaker announced as the 13th Doctor. Doctor Who has long been a show that has sought to push boundaries; from Captain Jack Harkness being bisexual, to the most recent companion, Bill Potts, being openly gay. A female Time Lord was the last taboo, and incoming showrunner, Chris Chibnall, says he always knew he wanted a female Doctor. Whittaker and Chibnall have a shared history; she starred as grieving parent Beth Latimer in Broadchurch, which was helmed by Chibnall. Whittaker’s portrayal was raw, gripping, and emotional; little wonder that Chibnall wanted her for Doctor Who. Whittaker herself says that playing the Doctor offers a chance to be “the ultimate character:”

“To be asked to play the ultimate character, to get to play pretend in the truest form: This is why I wanted to be an actor in the first place. To be able to play someone who is literally reinvented onscreen, with all the freedoms that brings: What an unbelievable opportunity. And added to that, to be the first woman in that role.”

As ever, the secrecy surrounding the casting was high, and Whittaker says she was stunned when she was asked to audition:

“We had a strange chat earlier this year where [Chibnall] tricked me into thinking we were talking about Broadchurch. And I started to quiz him about his new job in Wales, and asked him if I could be a baddie! And he quickly diverted the conversation to suggest I should consider auditioning to be the 13th [Doctor],” Whittaker said. “It was the most incredible chat because I asked every question under the sun, and I said I’d take a few weeks to decide whether I was going to audition. He got a phone call within 24 hours. He would’ve got a phone call sooner, but my husband was away and there was a time difference!”

While Whittaker’s casting has been met with the inevitable outrage from some factions, overall it seems to be met with positivity; Doctor Who has been in need of a big shake-up for some time, and a female Doctor could be just that. Whittaker is certainly a strong enough actress to embrace all that the role entails, and she is relishing all that being the first female Doctor has to offer:

“It feels completely overwhelming, as a feminist, as a woman, as an actor, as a human, as someone who wants to continually push themselves and challenge themselves, and not be boxed in by what you’re told you can and can’t be. It feels incredible.”


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